What's Hard About a Topic?
In MOVIE 1, Harvard's David Perkins and MIT's Jeanne Bamberger
raise a powerful question that may help focus your attention
when you design and plan a lesson or unit of instruction:
What's hard about the specific topic you're about to teach?
What key difficulties will students encounter when solving
a design challenge, or doing an investigation, or learning
an idea? The Cognitive/Learning Sciences suggest that
teaching or instruction that ignores students' preconceptions
or "misconceptions" often ends up not changing
them. Many such ideas get described in Novice/Expert Studies
related to all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering,
Three of Perkin's categories for how ideas can be hard
to learn to keep in mind when planning your own lessons
- Things that are counterintuitive.
- Things that are complicated.
- Things that are plain weird.
Asking what's hard for students about the topic could
be your own Teaching Research Question of the Year.
Try putting this issue in the forefront of selected
lessons that you plan for 1-2 semesters. Start to collect
ways that students express their prior knowledge. See
what things your find that your students need to focus
on when they try to understand some of the tougher concepts
in the course you teach (controlling variables, Newton's
Second Law of Motion).
Many Faces of Constructivism (4 pages) is an article
by David Perkins that describes some key features of
effective constructivist teaching and some of the challenges
of using this teaching approach.